JANUARY 2018 started with heavy rain. The river and lake rose by 12 inches at least. Some Pike were showing for anglers. Up to 15 Wigeon and Goldeneye were displaying. Circa 50 Siskins and the odd Kingfisher were recorded. It wasn't cold enough for rarer wildfowl. There was some vandalism in hides. Mid-month there were big flocks of Shoveler. The highlight was mid-month; 2 Woodcock were flushed while picking litter. At the end of the month there were displaying grebes and goldeneye and a pregnant muntjac in the reed bed near the Pulpit.
 
FEBRUARY started cold with NW winds. At least four species of gull were present. Goldfinch were feeding on teazel and pike up to 20lb were caught prior to the beast from the east arriving. Some coppicing was done towards the end of the month.
 
MARCH : The "Beast from the East" arrived and the lake was frozen. A pair of Bullfinch and Goldcrest obliged and two redhead Smew were the main attractions. Mid-month : Cetti's were calling and lesser spotted woodpecker was heard. The fishing season closed on the 14th with some pike to 10lb in the margins. The first Chiffchaff was heard in sub-song on the 13th. There was then heavy rain through to Easter. Finally a pair of Oystercatcher and a Sand Martin were reported at month's emnd.
 
APRIL started over the Easter holiday with rain and ten pairs of breeding Little Egrets. Mixed warblers were singing up to mid-month. Also hirundines were arriving. A rare Black-tailed Godwit landed at Stocker's Farm briefly on 14th. Swallows were nesting at the farm. Vale Side volunteers found two Willow Warblers singing on 18th and a Cuckoo was heard the next day. At the end of the month whitethroats and swifts arrived plus possible two firecrests along the Colne. Finally there was a wheatear on the farm.
 
MAY saw a sunny start. Greylags were with juveniles. A cuckoo and swifts were reported on 3rd. The female Goldeneye had 6 juveniles on adjacent Springwell Lake which is over the border and so sadly this was not a Herts record. A mandarin put in a rare appearance and a Great White Egret was seen in the heronry. A few red eared terrapins were seen but otherwise it was a quiet month's end.
 
JUNE saw low numbers of common terns due to predation by black headed gulls. Wren and Song Thrush bred. 3 Cetti's were holding territories. There were no records at month's end.
 
JULY - the warm weather continued and no records were submitted to Herts Bird Club for 10 days. 30 swallows were seen over the farm and Oystercatcher was heard. 
On 15th 2 Sandwich tern were seen over the causeway. Common tern were breeding. One juvenile was seen. Cetti's were proven to be breeding. On the 25th a Great Crested Grebe was on its second clutch and Kingfishers were active along the river.
 
AUGUST - the heat was on and not many records were being reported other than one of two Mediterranean gulls over adjacent Bury Lake. A Barnacle Goose was reported on 21st. Few observers or anglers were on the reserve. Thanks to junior birders for their records - Ella, Issy, Thomas, Natalie and Daniel. A single Hobby and the odd Swift were seen at month's end.
 
SEPTEMBER provided a couple of Whinchat and a Yellow Wagtail on the farm and a Common Sandpiper on the lake. There was a lack of observers again. A passage of House Martins was seen on 22nd. A large willow tree blocked the path on the canal side. At the end of the month two Ravens were seen over the farm.
 
OCTOBER is when Pike fishing begins. 2 Stonechats were seen on the farm and Red Crested Pochard were increasing. Mid month : 5 Chiffchaff and a late Hobby were reported. Winter thrushes were increasing. Josh Kalms (HMWT) recorded increasing wildfowl and Anna recorded 28 Red Crested Pochard. A U3A group recorded circa 40 Goldfinch. A month's end wildfowl count included 22 Cormorant, 150 Coot, 100 Tufted Duck, 91 Pochard and 30 Gadwall.
 
NOVEMBER was a little colder with rain. A single Water Rail was heard along the Colne. Wildfowl were increasing and a few Siskin and a Crossbill were heard overhead. Common Gull were seen plus a party of Fieldfare.
 
DECEMBER saw the weather turning colder. There was a small flock of Lapwing plus a few gulls. A party from HMWT were at work on the lake. A great black-backed gull obliged and Grey Wagtail showed at the weir.
 
A full species by species report follows.
 

LITTLE GREBE - A few odd birds throughout the year
GREAT CRESTED GREBE - Breeds, regular, also winters
CORMORANT - A few breeding birds present
GREAT WHITE EGRET - on 19th May
LITTLE EGRET - 31 birds roosted in June
GREY HERON - Large heronry of up to 30 birds
GREYLAG GEESE - a few breeding pairs
CANADA GEESE - abundant
BARNACLE GOOSE - One odd bird, possibly an escape
EGYPTIAN GEESE - Another breeder
WIGEON - up to 40 birds some winters
MALLARD - Common breeder
MANDARIN - 1 bird in May
GADWALL - Common breeder
COMMON TEAL - Declining Visitor
SHOVELER - Large numbers in winter
RED CRESTED POCHARD -Increasing Breeding Bird
POCHARD - Winter influx mostly
TUFTED DUCK - Common breeder
GOLDENEYE - Bred on adjacent Springwell Lake; double figures over-wintered
SMEW - March record during "A best from the East"
GOOSANDER - the odd single
SPARROWHAWK - Resident Breeder
PEREGRINE - Regular; mostly in winter
COMMON BUZZARD - Regular breeder
KESTREL - Least common raptor
HOBBY - spring and autumn records
PHEASANT - heard more than seen
WATER RAIL - winter records along Colne and flooded areas
MOORHEN - Common breeder
COOT - Common breeder
OYSTERCATCHER - March record and with a juvenile in June
LAPWING - Increasing; probably bred on islands
BLACK TAILED GODWIT - 1 over Stosker's Farm 14th April
COMMON SANDPIPER - Single Record
WOODCOCK - 2 flushed near pumping station
COMMON SNIPE - A few records in March
BLACK HEADED GULL - Large colony nester
COMMON GULL - Winters
HERRING GULL - A few present; breeds locally
LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL - A few present; breeds locally
GREATER BLACK BACKED GULL - A few in winter
COMMON TERN - Breeder; declining due to gull predation
SANDWICH TERN - Migrant flyovers
WOODPIGEON - Common breeder
CUCKOO - 1 April record; declining species
RING NECKED PARAKEET - Increasing numbers
KINGFISHER - Resident Breeder
GREEN WOODPECKER - Local Breeder
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER - Common breeder
LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER - Rare Breeder
SAND MARTIN - Rare
HOUSE MARTIN - Rare locally
SWALLOW RESIDENT - Breeder on Stocker's Farm
MEADOW PIPIT - Stocker's Farm
PIED WAGTAIL - Common
GREY WAGTAIL - Has bred; Stocker's Lock
YELLOW WAGTAIL - September 13th on fields on Stocker's Farm
WREN - Common
DUNNOCK - Common
ROBIN - Common
WHINCHAT - 2 in September on Stocker's Farm
STONECHAT October 25th on Stocker's Farm
BLACKBIRD - Common

Steve Carter